The genealogical significance of the papers of these governments is often ignored, as many people do not know that these records are available. Although the task of finding and using the records may seem daunting, the resulting data may prove to be the key needed to prove that elusive Native American connection that is in your traditional family history.
The three countries that held sway over the southeastern area of the United States were Great Britain, France, and Spain. It is important to know when these governments were in control of an area in order to accurately research the records.
In terms of British records, genealogists will find it useful to consult Charles M. Andrews' Guide to Materials for American History, to 1783, in the Public Records Office of Great Britain. This book is currently out of print, but if www.worldcat.org is consulted (and you may need to ask your public librarian for help with this), the material is available in book form and on microfilm in several libraries throughout the world. William L. Anderson and James A. Lewis's, A Guide to Cherokee Documents in Foreign Archives is available for sale on Amazon.com and is also available in over 220 libraries worldwide. Charles M. Andrews and Frances G. Davenport's, Guide to the Manuscript Materials for the History of the United States to 1783, in the British Museum, in the Minor London Archives, and in the Libraries of Oxford and Cambridge is available for sale at a prohibitive cost, but is available in over 300 libraries worldwide. These three sources are not the only ones listing records available for research, but they will give the researcher a good starting point.
The researcher must remember that these records are lists of material available, not name indexes. To use the materials listed, the genealogist must either go to the archive or research institution named or obtain the records through another avenue.
France controlled the Gulf Coast from the late 17th century to the 1760s. Records for this period are not as thorough as those of Great Britain or Spain, but France was trade-oriented, so what is available could prove to be most useful for the genealogist. These records, as they are records of the traders, provide a glimpse into the lives of the individuals of the time.
One place to begin to understand the records available is Glenn Conrad and Carl A. Brasseaux's, A Selected Bibliography of Scholarship Literature on Colonial Louisiana and New France. Two other sources are Dunbar Rowland and A.G. Sander's, Mississippi Provincial Archives, 1701-1763 and Dunbar Rowland, A.G. Sanders, and Patricia Galloway's, Mississippi Provincial Archives, French Dominion, 1729-1748. All of these sources may be purchased from Amazon.com as well as searched on www.worldcat.org. Many libraries throughout the world have these books.
These records are starting points only. They will lead the genealogist to other records that may prove to be useful.
By far, the country of Spain has the most records relating to the pre-colonial era of the southeastern United States. People are only now beginning to understand how many records the Spanish government kept of its time in the colonies. Although most of these records are in Spanish, some have been translated. One of the most useful translations is Lawrence Kinnaird's, Spain in the Mississippi Valley, 1765-1794, Vol. 2-4 of the Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1945. This reference is available on Amazon.com, and it is available through www.worldcat.org. The documents found here are varied. Many questions of early southeastern location and trade routes will be solved by perusal of these papers. Names will be found in these volumes.
Another invaluable resource of early Spanish records is known as the Cuban Papers. Although the records have been microfilmed and are available in many research facilities, few have been translated. The records are primarily written in Spanish, then French. The Cuban Papers have an unbelievable depth of information including oaths of allegiance; petitions; land sales and deeds; land grants; military orders; military lists of officers and soldiers; as well as some census, marriage, and death records, to name just a few for the southeastern Native American tribes. The time period covered ranges from the early 1730s until around 1800. The Mississippi Valley, the Gulf Coast, and East and West Florida are included.
This collection of papers represents only the beginning of the Spanish material available to the family history researcher. The value of these records cannot be ignored.
By becoming aware of the political and social history of the southeastern United States before the formation of the government of the United States, genealogists may be able to glean much needed information. This is especially true for Native American researchers. After consulting the records of Great Britain, France, or Spain, a genealogist may be able to prove the tradition of Native American ancestry that has been handed down in a family.